Rethinking Manipulatives

On Friday two of my students did something that made me rethink the way that use manipulatives in math.

I’m really lucky to have an Xbox Kinect in my class right now.  The Kinect is a piece of hardware that allows you to interact with video games kinaesthetically.  Your body is the controller.  The console is on loan from Dr. Camile Rutherford at Brock University.  Dr. Rutherford uses the Kinect with her preservice teachers in the B.Ed program.  Since the students have left for their summer holidays, Dr. Rutherford is letting me use one of her consoles.

I’ve been using a game called Dance Central 2 in conjuntction with a lot of the work that we’re doing in language and social studies.  I wrote about some of the work we’ve been doing in a post last week.  I extended that thinking to a math problem.  

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For the students to fully understand the problem, we first had to break down the moves.  We figured out that each “hello” dance move used three hand waves and each “no worries” move used two hand waves.  We then played with a bunch of different ways to show this learning.  Essentially students were asked to figure out 3X3+2X2.  This is a higher level math concept and it was so neat to see the different ways that students showed their thinking.  I gave them time to play with their math and wonderful things happened.

This one floored me: 

I started wondering about how I use manipulatives.  Normally I ask students to make groups of things, then add them up to explain multiplication.  These two girls thought of things that were already grouped.  Real life examples of grouping to show multiplication.  At the same time simple and complex.  I’ve never thought about it in this way.  This is going to be another tool that I put in the math toolbox.

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